Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Austrians never cease to amaze me

I am dictating the first part of this blog with my new software MacSpeech Dictate. The reason I’m doing this is because I can only type with two fingers and I’m getting progressively worse at this. I’ve tried really hard to teach myself to touch type this has been a monumental failure. Recently when my eyes were not working properly I was having great difficulty typing so decided to get some dictation software. What you are reading now has been dictated and has not been edited at all. I have been dictating at my normal speaking speed and it just verbal for long typing everything I say. It’s marvelous and as you can see, very accurate. I can use the normal typing or for surfing the web or for doing the mouse and pretty much anything at all. It can even detect my Xanax and. Curl. The mistakes of the software makes are because I do not pronounce the word properly. This is the end of the dictation.
‘Xanax and. Curl’ was the software’s response to me saying ‘Australian accent, Cool’.  ‘Doing the mouse’ was ‘doing emails’

But it works pretty well if I don’t slur my words.

There was a major surprise here on Tuesday when the Air Con men came. They did not bring replacements for the cardboard. They brought a new motor for the unit that has been Cactus for about a year. So the new unit is humming away but the cardboard struggles on in some of the others. I rather fear it is there forever – or until the endless succession of repairmen who trudge through the apartment dispose of it all eventually.

My contract with T-Mobile had expired so I went along a few weeks ago to collect a new iPhone 4.
To no one’s surprise they did not have any - but it arrived today so I toddled along to get the new phone and renew the contract – at a lower rate than the last one. 

I now have European roaming at no extra charge so it does not cost me an extortionate sum to call Melissa in Paris or to call European numbers when I am travelling. Anyway I got home and tried to change the SIM cards but could not get the old SIM card into the new phone. Well I could have if I had trimmed it with a razor blade but I thought about this for a while and figured that neither Steve Jobs or T-Mobile would expect me to do that – so it was off to Google.

‘The new iPhone 4 takes a Mini SIM card’ it said.

Hmmm…..I wonder why they did not give me one of those.

Perhaps the man behind the counter fancied me and wanted me to come back. Checks in mirror. Unlikely.

Simple really – he forgot. Forgot?

I am standing there with my iPhone 3G and he hands me the new iPhone 4 and he forgets the thing that makes it work. He needs to put a Post-it note reminder on the cash register.

Anyway on the next trip a nice young man gave me a shiny new (and very tiny) Mini SIM and got the new phone working for me.  I made him do it on the spot because I have a bad habit of dropping small things like that and getting them wedged into cracks. Quite often I drop something and Sissi pounces on it and carries it away. She did this with a number of small parts the Air Con people were using but they were very patient.

So I now have a new iPhone – but Cate is using it because she got a new BlackBerry – but it does not work. Tee Hee.

From the Austrian Independent

A foolish Upper Austrian angered by moles digging up his garden has lost two fingers when a bizarre DIY stunt to kill them went disastrously wrong.The 34-year-old Aspach resident taped a pipe to the exhaust of his petrol-guzzling lawnmower and rammed the other end into the alley under a molehill to gas the animals. When the infuriated hobby gardener noticed that one of the moles tried to escape through the gap between the ground and the mower, he tried to grab it – and had two fingers chopped off his right hand by the rotating blades.
The Austrians never case to amaze me. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WTF is it about Cupcakes?

I am embarrassed to tell you this but I had to buy a piece of Microsoft software.

Since I bought my iMac I have become totally Macstoned and immersed in the wonderful new technology but I just could not deal with ‘Numbers’, which is the Mac equivalent of Microsoft Excel. I am quite sure Numbers is fabulous – but I have been using Excel since it first came out many moons ago and just could not adapt to Numbers. I am sure you know how you just get shortcuts imbedded into your brain and just cannot get rid of them. So I cracked and bought Microsoft Office for Mac.

And I must say that it is much more elegant that Office for Windows. The fundamental structure and commands are the same – which makes it easy for me to use – but it just – you know – looks better and seems to work better. One of the issues is of course that now that I don’t have Windows I do not have daily (or even hourly) crashes and do not get stupid messages saying one thing but which really mean:

‘This program has stopped working. We are not sure why – perhaps it is taking a tea break – we would look for a solution but we know there isn’t one so we will just keep you sitting there staring at the screen for a few minutes and then we may terminate the program and let you start again. But if you shout at us like you are doing now we my just hang you out to dry and freeze your computer completely – and if you continue to bang your keyboard like that we will just give you the old BSOD finger and make you search for your original program disk and that will make an ugly sight as you rummage shouting through the drawers of your desk wishing to Keerist you had done what you should have and put the fecking thing where you could find them again.'

OK so I have one freezing episode on my iMac since I bought it 5 months ago. I asked it to do something unreasonable and it told me to bugger off and I watched the spinning colored wheel for quite a long time while I tried to figure out what to do. The usual response is to ‘force quit’ a program but I could not do that because no program was running. I eventually turned it off and back on. Perhaps some Apple users can provide the answer.

What is it about cupcakes? These used to be things people made for the school fete or for children’s birthday parties. They were large lumps of fluffy (or sometimes rock hard) cake with icing on top. They cost about 10c to make and sold for 50c – in 2008 money. You can buy them in any cake shop in Australia for $3 per dozen.

Just before we left Sydney the Cupcake Whirlwind hit Sydney – and probably the rest of Australia. We had the ‘Cupcake Room’ open just near us. We tried this to see what the fuss was about.

They had two trays of cupcakes – each one a masterpiece of colored icing and ornaments. The cupcakes themselves were microscopic and hard – and tasteless. They came in one flavor – no flavor. No Chocolate, no Cinnamon, no Banana, nothing else – PLAIN. Plain, tasteless and expensive.

They cost $2.50 to $3.00 EACH!

We thought (knowing so little about these sorts of things that it is laughable) ‘well this won’t last long – who would buy these?’

But on it rolled. I did a quick Google search and there are at least 30 cupcake shops in Sydney now. They may be hundreds. My only question is WHY?

I just do not know but this link takes you to an article that attempts to explain the inexplicable. 
And now Wien is now infested with cupcake shops. Wien! Of all places! Still they have to be better than Topfenstrudel (Parsifal will comment about this).

Here is a link so that you can see the dimensions of the problem facing us. This has to be the cake equivalent of Starbucks.  They must be stopped!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

They are ugly AND they don’t work

Stadtpark 27 September 2010

I have built a few websites in my time and without exception they were extraordinarily ugly. I have no design skills whatsoever and this coupled with a total sense of color coordination and aesthetic values made my websites look like yesterday’s vomit on toast. They were, however, useable. In the sense that when you clicked on a link it worked and when you wanted to fill in a form you could do so with a minimum of fuss.

I was very careful about this because I know that there is nothing more frustrating to users than to try to use websites that do not function properly.

I say this because last night a spent an immensely frustrating couple of hours trying to book flights to Male – in the Maldives – where we are going Scuba Diving next April.

Most airline sites incorporate the double whammy. They are ugly AND they don’t work. (I have ranted about this previously).

Most sites make you fill out the desired travel dates, number of people etc and when you click ‘search’ you find that there are no flights – or they go via Zanzibar with a three-day layover. To do a new search you have to start from scratch. Almost everyone does this.

Air Berlin uses the cunning ploy of having a search screen that is fine until you put in the desired dates – then the search button vanishes below the margin and will not come out no matter what you do.

I eventually found a way around this by going through Air Niki and discovered that Air Berlin has many flights going to Male in April – but none at all coming back in May.  There is no explanation given for this – I am sure there is one - but it is not helpful if you are trying to book a return flight. I eventually found some options – all of them ghastly.

Cate says she does not want to be involved so I will have to take on the full responsibility. In April when we are sitting in some rat hole for a 10-hour stopover on our way to Male via Timbuktu with Bogair Cate will regret the amount of discretion and responsibility she gave me - but then it will be too late. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Does it matter when you are dead?

We had out first fire last night. It was not really cold enough but Melissa is visiting and she feels the cold so we lit a roaring blaze and the cats basked in front of it. It was sort of a trial run in celebration of my massive pile of wood.

This morning of course the cats were sitting in front of the silent and quiet fire at dawn waiting for it to come to life - but I have told them they really have to wait until it is really cold.

I have complained in previous years about the difficulty of getting firewood in to the apartment. To illustrate this I quote from my Blog of 9 March 2009

“When I get to the wood department I load the trolley – as I did today – with 18 packets of wood. Each contains 5 ‘logs’ and each weighs 10 kilos.
When I get back to Billy I load this in the back of the car and in the back seat.

When I get home and drive into the garage I have to unload Billy before I park him so I put Billy on the turntable and the 18 packets into the alcove near the door. Then I park Billy and go down to the basement to get the trolley.

Then I use the trolley to take the wood, six packets at a time, into the foyer. I then have to take 4 of them off the trolley and carry them up 14 steps to the landing – load them back onto the trolley and take them to the elevator.

I go up four levels in the elevator and then take 4 of them off the trolley and carry them up four steps and load them back on the trolley. Then I take them into the apartment and unload them.

Why doesn’t he take them all up the stairs on the trolley? Because they are too heavy – I can only take two at a time up the stairs.

By the time I have done this I am well and truly knackered.

There may be a more efficient way to do this but I got a distinction for Quantitative Analysis and I can’t think of one.

(Yes I can – get someone else to do it – brilliant!)”

Well I got Dolly the Trolley which made things a bit easier last winter but it was still heavy going so this year I was much better organized and employed a young man to do all the heavy work. I went to Bauhaus to buy the wood and he carried it all – every last stick – into the apartment and stacked it.

He did not find this difficult at all and did in fact moved 600 kilos without raising a sweat. Youth!

He is the Nephew of our VP Cat Minding and Cleaning – Ms Moneypenny so is of sound Rumanian stock. They make them tough in those parts of the world.

I hasten to add that he does not do this for a living. He has in fact been accepted for Medical School in Vienna so is destined for great things.

He is ready to fetch and carry anytime I need more wood so I can throw a log on the fire without any worry about getting more in. Bliss.

I have told you before about the Austrian and German fetish for titles. Melissa and I went to the Hietzing cemetery to day and admired all the magnificent headstones with the titles of the deceased. Doctor, Engineer, Professor, Wombat Strangler etc.

One of the largest we saw was for a Zahnarzt – which is a dentist.  An honorable profession to be sure – and indeed one we could not do without – but does it matter when you are dead? 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

WTF is this cardboard doing in here?

Sissi likes to help me with the ironing. She does not like it when I iron her tail.

I quote from my Blog of 28 January 2009.
“The men came to fix the air-conditioning and spent six hours here. After much farnarkling their solution was to cut pieces of cardboard from a number of cardboard cartons and put these pieces of cardboard into each air-conditioning unit. They said that they would get metal pieces made to replace the cardboard and one man spent some time drawing the specifications of these pieces of metal.
The men indicated that they would be back before the end of the century to fit these. This raises a number of questions - for example - if the air-conditioners require cardboard to make them work why was this not fitted in the factory?
The air conditioners are 10 years old. Why has the absence of cardboard not been noticed before now?”
Well - you know how thorough the Austrians are. 
On Monday this week Cate received a call from one of the Administration people in her office. The Administration  person had heard from someone who wanted to ‘fix our fan’. 
After consultation with me and much too-ing and fro-ing we deduced that what in fact had happened was that (Gasp!) the man wanted to come and replace the cardboard with (we assume) metal bits that have been carefully hand carved by little Elves in the Vienna Woods during the last 20 months.
20 Months! 
Each one a delicate work of art. Carved, scraped, shaped, prodded, padded  - tested in  a wind tunnels and finally sand blasted and hand polished by skilled Artisans.  
The reason for the delay is apparently that they have been on display in MAK where viewers have gasped in awe at the delicate filigree and burnished aluminum. 

Putting work of this quality into our clapped our Air Conditioners seems to me to be a bit of a waste of Earth’s precious resources but the momentum for this project is now unstoppable and - even as I write - workmen are feverishly packing the pieces with bubble wrap for the journey to Am Heumarkt on Tuesday. 
Well there is going to be some disappointment if they want their cardboard back because most of this has been thrown away by the succession of people who have poked around in the innards of our Air Conditioners during the last year or so.
I imagine they thought ‘WTF is this cardboard doing in here? - it is obviously the cause of the problems’. 
I am entirely confident that the new aerodynamically designed pieces will make not one skerrick of difference to the system. But it keeps people in work and in this day and age that is important. 
More important is an entire unit - the size of the Fiat Panda (but more attractive) that has sat there idle and sullen for more than six months. 
The man has ordered the parts so I have made a note in  my diary to set aside some time in 2012 for the repair work to be conducted. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Don’t ask, don’t tell - just Bugger Off!

Dear Gay and Lesbian servicemen and servicewomen of America. 

In honor of your outstanding service to the United States of America - the Republican Senators have commissioned new and improved K-rations which you can munch on thoughtfully while you are sitting in dusty far flung spots throughout the world being shot at and dismembered by the Taliban, Al Qaeda or whoever we happen to be at war with at any give time.
You can be sure that whenever we have to fight another futile and pointless war we will call on you to fight and die for your country. Just don’t tell us you are Gay or Lesbian or we will boot you out of the armed forces as quick as we can.
And the K-rations? They taste like what we think of you. Enjoy!
The Democrats don’t deserve to be in government. They cannot even get their own Senators to vote for their own legislation. It’s just horrible to watch and they sooner they are put out of their misery the better.
They may go down as one of the most incompetent governments in US history. The Republicans and the Republican Dirt Machine have made mincemeat of them since day one and as soon as the Republicans get control of the Senate they will destroy the Health Care Reform Legislation.
The cannot repeal it until they get into government but as their leaders have said - they will make sure it does not get one dime in funding so that will be impossible to implement. 
Then we will have tax cuts for the really rich, cuts in unemployment benefits and a roll back of Social Security benefits. 
They may introduce compulsory church attendance and public hangings of Atheists. 
Supervised by President Palin and ‘Special Secretary for the Punishment of Non-believers and Masturbators’ Christine O’Donnell. 
It’s just pitiful. 
If the Democrats were horses they would shoot them.  
Rant Ends


We are going to Lapland for the New Year and will be staying at a place inside the Arctic Circle. 
We will be where the red dot is. 
Well we went to St Petersburg last New Year but it and that was not really cold enough for us so we thought we would try something a bit more frigid. 
I think we have found it.
This place looks brilliant - it as far North as you can go without being an Arctic explorer. 
Gwenyth is of course coming with us so there is every chance we will get lost in the wilderness and be eaten by Polar Bears. 

I have booked Husky and Reindeer expeditions. Should be loads of fun.

Loonies abound at the moment. 
If you look at a composite photo of the Earth at night from space you will see that North Korea is as dark as the inside of a bag. This is because they don’t have much electricity - or indeed anything else of much consequence - expect dirt - without much growing in it. 
I was reminded of this image thing (which I first learned about in an episode of West Wing) when I read a report yesterday that the Korean Workers Party is to have its first Party Conference in 30 years - probably to elect the son of the ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il as his replacement. 
30 years is a long time between conferences but I guess they think things have been going pretty well - considering. 
I mean there was the Great Famine which killed many millions and the Annual Famine which kills a few hundred thousand and there is almost no industry and bugger all in the way of household goods or equipment (but as there is no electricity to run them anyway this is not really a problem) and there is nothing to watch on TV - which is also just as well because there are no TVs.
Well maybe one - I image the Dear Leader's son wants to watch MTV, Jersey Shire and Pimp My Ride. 
And they don't make an anything at all worth having - except nuclear weapons and there are almost no occasions these days when you can explode these without causing a ruckus.
I guess all they can do for recreation is fire rockets into the ocean and sink South Korean ships - which they can apparently do without any repercussions except huffing and puffing by all and sundry so I guess will keep doing it. 
All the people really have to do is to continue to starve, polish their donkeys and sew (by candlelight) gaudy costumes for the Dear Leader’s next birthday. 
But I am sure the new boy will be better. He is apparently well educated, speaks three languages, is a terrific basketball player and is quite possibly as mad as his father. 
I imagine he will have a garage full of Ferraris and be just as concerned about the people as his father is. 
The world is an amazing place - with more than its fair share of loonies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No - he was a Catholic - like you!

Vienna from our kitchen window today. 
It’s a glorious day in Vienna today. I went for a ride along the Donaukanal and on the Donauinsel and it was just fabulous.
It is getting cold and I saw some Schanigarten being packed up. Winter is almost upon us.
I have lot’s to tell you about including my new software and our trip to Lapland. 
I Imagine you just can’t wait.
And incidentally - while he was poncing about in Britain while the faithful bowed and scraped before him the Pope trotted out the old chestnut about Hitler being an atheist.
It takes a grand amount of Chutzpah to sling off at Atheists when  you are presiding over one of the most grotesquely corrupt organizations on the planet - but you could never accuse any Pope of being of the real world. 
Anyone who runs a vast organization built on the premise that we are all watched over by an invisible man who lives in the sky is not interested in either facts or history. 
As has been catalogued by many historians on many occasions Hitler was in fact a Catholic and avowed this on a number of separate occasions during his  rather unfortunate and messy time at the helm of the third Reich. Indeed the country was Catholic. 
Hitler did not kill anybody because he was an atheist. He killed a large number of people because he was completely unhinged and had a number of serious personal issues. 
To respond I can do no better than append an e-mail I received today from the Australian Foundation of Association - which as you can imagine is one of my very favorite organizations. 
‘Atheists are both amused and astounded by recent attempts to confuse and scare society about the prevalence of atheism.  The Pope’s pathetic attempt last week to align Nazism and Atheism is devoid of sense or accuracy, and is possibly the lowest example of public fear-mongering on the issue in recent times. Coming from the head of the Catholic Church, it truly exposes the unfortunate situation of an institution confronted by science, social progress and increasing human intelligence.
David Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia said, “Really, we wouldn’t expect anything less from a religion based on untruth and myth. Our ability to think critically and rationally about the world affords us great confidence and strength in our convictions.”
If all the commonly accepted history books are accurate then Nazism was closely associated with the acceptance of a higher god. Hitler wrote * “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord…”
In fact, the anti-Semitism of the pre-war church fostered the conditions in which the great inhumanity that was to follow could flourish. It is very important to note the serious and tangible effect that extreme religious ideals can have on humans. We have seen this destructiveness in numerous historical events over history including the Crusades.
 “Of course religions are going to attempt to cause fear and hysteria about atheists. We celebrate reason and rationality – concepts that are far removed from religion. Modern science has the capacity to explain away the fabrications of the mainstream religions and the conflicting evidence within the pages of their sacred texts, while history outlines the hypocrisy and atrocities nurtured by these dated sets of ideals” David Nicholls said.
ABS statistics show a marked decline in the percentage of citizens who are Christian and the rise of those who identify as having ‘no religion’ in the past few decades.
*[Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf", Vol. 1, Chapter 3]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

He she's perfect!

You touch your Willy and I will beat you do death with my club and then fill you full of lead!
Turns out the Christine is madder a bit crazier than I thought she was - but not too crazy for the Tea Party or US Senate. 
Christine’s beliefs include:
She opposes abortion, including in cases of rape and incest.
She has condemned research declaring that "American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains”.
(I am not making this up!) 
She is a gun supporter and the NRA has endorsed her she "will be a strong voice in fighting ongoing efforts by anti-gun politicians to dismantle the Second Amendment. 
She is opposed to the Health Care reforms and has pledged to legislatively remove federal funding from the law.
She has said that she will never vote to increase taxes.
She has advocated the teaching of creationism in public schools and argued for a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
She has rejected Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution asserting that  it "had not met scientific criteria" and that "when you get down to the hard evidence, it's merely a theory.
But we shouldn’t be too hard on her - after all President Bush said that ‘the jury was out on evolution’. 
It’s quite possible that after November Christine will be a Senator and will have for company a number of people who share her beliefs, prejudices and bat-brained ideas. 
I lie awake contemplating the damage these people will be able to do to America and to civilization as a whole. 
I don’t know about you - but it scares the shit out of me. 
But on a lighter note - apropos Christine’s campaign against masturbation - Borowitz is brilliant as usual. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nope to the Pope!

The tea party, has appointed number of lunatics to run for the Senate in November.
Tea Partier and Christian fundamentalist Christine O'Donnell won the Republican nomination for senator in Delaware. 
Until this win Christine was most famous for faking her educational qualifications and campaigning against masturbation.
Excuse me?
Now I can think of a lot of things worth campaigning for but that’s not one of them. That would be like campaigning against Starbucks. 
I imagine her effort was as successful as George Bush’s massive campaign to promote abstinence in teenagers. That went really well. 
And another thing.
Another one of those loopy, crusty Cardinals in the Vatican said - on the eve of the Pope’s visit to the UK - that the UK is in fact a third world country stuffed with aggressive atheists. (Third world meaning in this context that there appear to be a large number of people there who are not from Anglo-Saxon stock).
To the Vatican an ‘aggressive atheist’  is someone who says - out loud - that he or she is an Atheist. 
Hey - this is me! 
As for Richard Dawkins and people who actually write books and blog about it - we are the equivalent of the Atheist Al Qaeda and should be exterminated. We should be confined somewhere where we can be watched closely so that we do not cause any problems by polluting the internet with our disgusting ideas. 
Meanwhile in the misty ephemeral world that the Pope inhabits - he said on his arrival in the Sceptred Isle - about child abuse:
"These revelations were for me a shock and a great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible," he told reporters aboard his plane to Scotland. "How a man who has done this and said this can fall into this perversion is difficult to understand."
He added, "It is also a great sadness that the authorities of the church were not sufficiently vigilant and insufficiently quick and decisive in taking the necessary measures."

Excuse me Mr Pope but you were there and have been since shortly after you we demobilized from the Hitler Youth - and that was a bloody long time ago. 

He also engaged in yet more Badger bashing by warning of "the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century"

I honestly did not realize I was such a threat to society. I am very quiet, good to my wife, kind to cats and never bash Christians in my blog more than once every week (maybe twice at Easter). 

I am certainly a threat to the German language - but not to anything else. 

This is all too much. I am really thinking of flying to london to participate in the ‘Protest the Pope’ marches.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We just don't want to hear from you!

Emirates Care-O-Meter
Nowadays (I love that word) organizations spend an enormous amount of time, energy and money making themselves impenetrable by clients.
Many web sites I have used during the last year or so do not in fact have a contact number - or even an email address. 
If you want to communicate with the company you fill out an online enquiry form and submit it (to who knows where). 
To get to this enquiry form you have to perform a number of maneuvers including visiting the FAQ site to make sure that you really, really do have to contact them with your grubby, stupid, pointless little enquiry. 
The enquiry form has a number of subjects from which you can choose. I rarely encounter a site that has the subject I want to address - so have to pick one at random.
This will almost certainly mean that I do not get a response - but that’s OK - I’m not really expecting one. 
Sure I will get an instant email saying something like ‘Thank you for your enquiry - we will attend to this immediately and respond to you’.
The message will then be deleted from the company’s server. 

There are also many who specialize in making their websites unusable. I guessing that the programmers (who may well be Macaque monkeys based in Burkina Faso) have never actually tried to use the websites - and indeed could not care less - as long as the sites look good. 
The two worst sites in the world (that I have encountered) are Telstra Australia and Qantas.
The Qantas site is almost unusable unless you want to book a flight using Frequent Flyer points - in which case it is completely, totally and comprehensively unusable. 
If for example you wish to book - as I did a few months ago - a Business Class ticket Vienna-Sydney return using Frequent Flyer points you have to fill out the usual form giving your details and needs and then input your desired dates.
When you click ‘submit’ a message will inevitably say ‘There are no seats available on these dates. Please choose new dates’.
The form will then be cleared of the dates and you can start again. It took me about five hours to find days that had seats available.
If they wanted you to use it they would show a calendar with the days seats are available - rather than making you play seat roulette. But they don’t want you to use it, or just don’t care, or are incompetent - or all three.

But then - Macaque monkeys just don't use Frequent Flyer points. 
The third worst site I have encountered is Emirates. 
Cate left her glasses on our Emirates flight home from Australia so we tried to get them back. It was a futile and sobbingly hopeless quest. I emailed, again and again  - I tried to call (don't bother). 
Today she received an email from Emirates saying they had a new link for customer enquiries. So I used it. My message is as follows. 
“Thanks for giving me a new contact site because all my previous emails have gone unanswered. 
So I thought I would give it one more try.
On flight EK 413 on July 13 2010 from Sydney to Dubai I was sitting in seat 14K and left my glasses and earrings on the plane in  my side pocket in business class. 
The staff in the business class lounge in Dubai said they would get them - and hours later said they could not get access to the plane. They said they would get them as soon  as they could access the plane. They said the aircraft had been 'sealed'. 
I left my business card with them. 
I have sent three emails to you without any kind of response whatsoever. 
I really don't expect to see the glasses again but it would be nice to know that there is not someone sitting somewhere and just deleting all the emails you get without reading them. 
And sure it was my fault - and perhaps it was also my own fault for giving Emirates Business Class a try. I travel 250,000 miles every year with Star Alliance and thought it might be nice for a change. 
I mean if I pay you such a large amount of money for 2 Business Class airfares Vienna-Australia return I thought I may warrant a reply to an email.
Let me help you with a draft reply.
Dear Ms Martin
Thank you for your enquiry.
We regret that a thorough search of the aircraft at the time and our lost property section since then has not enabled us to find your glasses and earrings.
Emirates etc
See - it's that easy - you can just cut and paste that and send it back to me.
Kind regards
Cate Martin

And - no - I don't expect a response. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

May we please have your car keys?

Occasionally when my brain stops functioning in the middle of a German separable verb I paddle through the commercial channels on Sky to see what’s happening in the world of reality TV.
I can  get about 100 UK channels and discounting the religious ones (which all have the same story) that still leaves about 80 for idle grazing. 
I have in the past discovered some absolute gems and my latest piece of gruesome dross is “Operation Repo”. 
This is about a group of very large people in the San Fernando Valley who repossess cars - well it is LA so it is mainly gigantic ‘pickups’ and monstrous Koala Crushers.
In the show the cameras follow these very large people as they confront owners who are behind in their payments and make off with their vehicles - or vee-hikkles as they call them in the USA. 
The very large people threaten to sit on the car owners if they do not hand over their keys. This would mean certain death. 
I watched two episodes and became quite enthralled by the astonishing confrontations with the enraged vee-hikkle owners and the shoving and wrestling matches that took place. 
So enthralled that I was suspicious and Googled it. 
And....I had been deceived. The show is a FAKE! (Gasp!).
It is apparently based loosely on real incidents but the actual repossessions portrayed in the show are staged - using (very bad) actors.
Fancy that - faked reality TV! 
You just cannot trust anyone these days. 
After that I went back to my German verbs. These are horrible - but real! 
The leaves are falling off the trees in droves here and the Ducks are preparing for winter. I am waiting for the cafes to pack up their outdoor areas - this is the sign that the cold weather is really upon us. 
Someone (probably either Parsifal or Viennesewaltz) told me early this year what these contraptions are called but I have forgotten and cannot find it in my own blog!
This is my second favorite time of the year - the favorite being Winter. 
I am hoping Merisi will have some wonderful shots of the Viennese Autumn.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Do not throw petrol on the barbecue

This can happen if you get to close to a Solarium. It looks like Barry had it on full blast. Or maybe he threw petrol on the barbecue. 
I have been loafing for the last few days and have not been in a mood to blog. But Merisi (who else!) has prodded me into life again. 
I had my head examined Friday and the results will be sent to Dr Mordor next week. I just cannot wait for his gloomy prognosis. 
I also saw the Skin Specialist and she pronounced me free from the problems that beset so many Australians who spend too much time in the sun.
In my case when I was young I lived next to a beach and spent every spare moment in the sun. It was fun at the time but crazy stuff as I know now.
The Skin Specialist says that she deal with people in Austria who have surgery for Melanomas. They ask her ‘when can I go back to the Solarium?’
There is some weird belief here that you cannot get cancer in a Solarium.
This information is probably provided by the same people who encourage young people to smoke. 
Every time I have an excruciating language experience in Vienna I lose heart and think that I will never be able to Speak German properly. 
I had one of these last week at Spar when I was asked a simple question - but one I had not been asked before - and simply did not know the verb. 
The young man knew NO English so we reached an impasse and he handed me a slice of ham. I realized some days later that he was asking me if I wanted to taste the ham. I just had not encountered that verb before. 
There are far too many German words and many of them are much too long. I gave up the thought long ago that I would be fluent in German and am just happy to have enough to struggle by when I encounter people who do not speak English. 
I cannot imagine how the German language developed in the manner it did - and suppose there were committees involved.  
But I can just imagine the German ‘Department of Impossible German Words’ where they took something reasonably straight forward in English and turned it in a dog’s breakfast. 
One of the (many) problems is that the word order changes depending upon how you start the sentence and what words you use in it. For example - you can say ‘because’ a number of different ways.
If you say it one way then the verb goes in a (sort of) logical position. If you say it another way the verbs is relegated to the back of the sentence - no matter how long the sentence is. Sort of like segregation. 
With this type of behavior - and the excruciating separable verbs - it is a wonder that anyone at all can speak German unless they were born into it. 
But there are not one or two rules - there are hundreds. Its as if the language was designed by those deranged people who decided to invade Iraq. There is no coherent plan, it is a shemozzle, a shambles - and ends in a thumping catastrophe for unwitting users.  
These language machinations are such bizarre concepts that I have given up all though of using verbs correctly and am happy enough just to get them into the sentence somewhere - and people seem to understand me.
Sure they look at me with some pity - but I my ambitions are limited - you know - like buying meat or getting shoes repaired. 
But I keep on struggling along and still do a couple of hours every week. 
The ultimate authority on the Awful German Language and its idiosyncrasies is Mark Twain - and this is worthwhile and hilarious reading.
Compared to German - French is  a complete doddle -  although lack of use has meant that I have lost  a lot of the fluency I once had. But I can still understand French TV and Radio - and read French newspapers - and  I know will never be able to do that in German.
I have told Cate that wherever we go next it must be somewhere where they speak English, French or German.
I simply refuse to learn a completely new language - and especially something like Turkish where they have umlauts, small birds on top of letters and tails on the bottom of letters.
Umlauts are bad enough - small birds and tails are another thing all together.